Since he decided to run for election to the European Parliament as an Independent candidate for the North West region, the campaign of Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, has developed not necessarily to his advantage. Quite apart from his no-show for an appearance at Salford Quays yesterday amid rumours that he was not taking the whole thing seriously enough, there is the problem of electoral law.
Lennon is infamous for not playing by the rules; his defiance of the landowner’s refusal to grant permission for his launch event in Wythenshawe to use the area it eventually did use is typical. But in election campaigns, not playing by the rules can end up with candidates being fined, disqualified or even jailed. So he’s having to adapt.
Problem is, he’s not adapting very well: as his launch event, Lennon had to be warned by the Police that handing out free food counted as “Treating” and could be considered an attempt to buy votes. He had to desist. Worse, there were suggestions of foreign sponsorship, which is also illegal, and is still being investigated.
On top of that has come a major howler with his election leaflets, which aren’t. Well, they exist, but do not comply with those pesky rules. Why so? Election leaflets, and indeed any election correspondence, has to contain what is called an Imprint. Here’s what the rules tell candidates about what an Imprint has to say.
“It is an offence for a printer or promoter to publish printed election material without an Imprint”. So what’s an Imprint? “An Imprint on candidate campaign material should look like this: ‘Printed by [printer’s name and address] … Promoted by [Agent’s name and address] on behalf of [Candidate’s name and address]’”. All very straightforward.
But Lennon’s leaflets don’t meet those simple criteria. So it was no surprise that Lennon’s leaflet, titled “Vote Tommy … Send Them A Message They’ll Never Forget” provoked Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate to respond “@gmpolice and @ElectoralCommUK please take action against #TommyRobinson’s illegal leaflet. The imprint does not met the legal requirements”. Lennon’s fans weren’t happy. But Lowles is right.
As the Tweeter known as JayT pointed out to one of them, “Regardless of your feelings about Mr Lowles/HNH - the law is the law. These things are easy to access and are there for all to see - just go to the Electoral Commission website; don't understand why Tommy didn't, unless he thinks he's above the law”. Also, another thought entered.
Lennon has said on more than one occasion that he has never voted in his life. It’s more than likely that he and his team have never been involved in running an election campaign before. Moreover, he appears not to have bothered hiring a professional agent.
All of which has culminated in what is now potentially three breaches of electoral law. He officially declared his candidacy last Thursday, and he’s achieved that in four days flat.
Combine that with not bothering to turn up to his own event yesterday, and you have a campaign going approximately nowhere, and fast. Just rejoice at that news.
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